Friday, 6 May 2016

Maurice - Zorndorf & Caesar's Court Martial

On Thursday night at the uni we had an epic double-player Maurice battle, played across the terrain of the Battle of Zorndorf 1758, between generic (non-historical) armies of Prussia and Austria (yes, no Russians this time - these are still on various painting tables scattered across the Illawarra!)

'Right - March in the guilty bas.. - I mean - March in the accused!
Its not often that multiplayer games lead to legal proceedings - but our usual post game deliberations, mostly conducted via our forum and by email, definitely had the air of an enquiry...hopefully my blog post will explain why, and you can pass your own verdict! The list of charge is growing longer, but includes:

Count 1: Unfairly and unpredictably throwing 6's (which in his defence is completely out of character).
Count 2: Conspiring with sundry merchants to distort the local economy by swamping the market with a glut of horseflesh, and, most gravely:
Count 3: Offending against good taste and Military etiquette by appearing on the Field of Honour sporting Crocs 'n Sox as foot apparel.

The field of Zorndorf, with the eponymous town at the bottom, and Zicher top mid-right
Our table, looking north east, with Zicher at the top centre of the photo - Prussians will deploy on the near edge.
Caesar organised the game as a multiplayer game, after giving everybody the option of playing several one on one games, or a massed game – the sentiment was for a big team game – I feel my work turning my mates into fellow megalomaniacs is bearing fruit!

Looking due east, with Zicher as the village with white buildings on the left. Table is 8 x 4.
The objective was the town of Zicher, which the Prussians (Caesar and Gary) had to wrest from us  Russians Austrians (Peter and I) .

My fellow Austrian Peter on the left, sitting opposite Caesar (the Accused). Caesar's Prussian mate Gary in the dark shirt.
I deployed first, with an Austrian infantry based army of 100 points, which was deployed across a wide front with irregular Grenze infantry anchoring the west flank, threatening to use their Skirmishers national advantage in the wooded terrain and rivers on that sector.

My centre consisted of Austrian line troops bolstered by 2 Regiments of Grenadiers in march colomn in local reserve, ready to cover any eventuality.

A large battery with the Artillery Academy national advantage, was deployed to the left of the infantry, directly to the front of the objective, Zicher, and a modest cavalry contingent in reserve, also remaining in march column for hasty deployment to cover any breakthroughs.

Gary then deployed a Prussian foot army, which deployed in columns opposite, and hoped to use its manoeuvrability in Cadence and Oblique Order national advantages to position for the kill with Lethal Volleys.

Peter commanded the Austrian cavalry army, investing Zicher in the far north with a battalion of his sparse infantry, while his plentiful cavalry anchored the Austrian east flank supported by a battery of artillery with the Artillery Academy national advantage. More on that later!

Caesar reviews the Prussian right wing cavalry - it all began so well!
Then finally Caesar deployed the Prussian cavalry army, very similar in composition to Peter’s force, opposite whom he deployed opposite on the east flank, with some troublesome river tributaries complicating decisive manoeuvre. (Guess who came in early to set up the terrain – tee hee hee!)

The battle commenced with a bombardment from Caesar’s “horse” artillery, hoping to use the Professional Train national advantage to allow it to close with the enemy after an initial devastating surgical strike. As it turned out, he inflicted a single disruption on one of Peter’s infantry battalions and little else after repeated long range efforts. My large artillery battery caused a few disruptions on the Prussian infantry, but nothing decisive.

Peter however put a crimp in Caesar's preparations to advance by playing the captured intelligence card as an Event, helping himself to one of Caesar's Coordinated Action cards.

Meanwhile, Gary had commenced the assault in earnest in the centre, astutely steering well clear of my lurking Pandour and Croat skirmishers.

It wasn’t long before the Prussian infantry had shaken out into lines and were pouring volleys into their Austrian counterparts.

The devastation continued as Gary ravaged my artillery park with a cavalry charge, a necessary action to prevent further damaging canister fire to his main attack. Luckily for me Peter’s well-sited battery caught the marauding cavalry in enfilade from across the river and chopped them up badly.

Gary looked across to his allied commander with raise eyebrows and Caesar was stung into doing something other than snipe at long range and drop annoying bits of terrain to secure his flank using the That’s Not On The Map! card, so he unleashed the heavy cavalry...

Riding roughshod across the river tributaries, laughing scornfully as he accrued disruptions for doing so, Caesar recklessly confidently ploughed four massed cavalry regiments into two of Peter’s infantry battalions in line in true cavalier fashion.

Peter coolly interrupted this madness with the Charge Falters card and backed it up with Hold The Line. Needless to say, the first charge was repulsed, so Caesar, channelling the ghost of that later Cavalry General, Douglas Haig, tried it again… and then again! In the ensuing court martial he claimed he was counting on an outnumbering advantage, two massed cavalry to one line infantry, but Peter had managed his cards perfectly to hit him with another Hold The Line and then another Charge Falters on the third attempt. By this stage he’d learned that musket volleys at close range into massed cavalry is probably a good idea, so although my line was being rearranged by Gary’s Lethal Volleys,

My line infantry disappear in a pink mist...
we Austrians took every opportunity to call a volley phase and inflict irreparable damage on vulnerable Prussian cavalry regiments, trading off the hurt to our infantry.

Like an enormous sausage machine, the cavalry kept feeding in until Prussian army morale was dangerously low. Finally Caesar diverted the survivors across another river to try and assist Gary’s equally foolhardy cavalry assault in the centre.

Ragged volleys continued to plague the Prussian cavalry as they shifted their effort westward, lowering Prussian army morale still further.

Morale was critically low on both sides, down to three a piece, the loss of a single unit potentially breaking the combined armies of either side.

David had kindly assumed command of the remnants of my army towards the end of the evening, as I was forced to retire, prostrate with nervous exhaustion, and he clung on doggedly, holding the entire western flank with two grenadier battalions as he attempted to bring his cavalry reserve to bear. Gary’s onslaught had been checked briefly by poor surveying when another That’s Not On The Map marsh materialised,

a parting gift from me as I was stretchered away from the field of honour, feebly waving my tear stained lace handkerchief at my brave boys to encourage them on – although I must say they didn’t seem impressed…Well, it was Italian lace d’ye know!

David takes over the remnants of the Prussian infantry...note the Accused's footwear...
Recall Peter’s well-sited battery? Well, although Gary had cunningly split Peter’s Austrian cuirassier reserve by cantering one of Peter’s regiments into the river in confusion, thereby screening the guns, Peter was able to pick another target in the form of Caesar’s cuirassiers that conveniently rode into view, and broke them with a well-aimed bombardment.

Now it was time for Caesars’ famed unlucky dice rolling to come into play and save the Prussian effort! Loss of the regiment meant 1-3 morale point depending on how high he rolled; the Prussians were in safe unlucky hands surely?

He rolled a six! That was enough to send the Prussians over the edge. The battle ended in the dark with both armies exhausted.  It was a pyrrhic victory for the Austrians who had suffered heavy losses but the Austrians held the field.

At Caesar’s court martial, Peter gave the following evidence:

The Austrians relocated its Artillery to fire into the Prussian Centre. The Artillery firing into the flanks of the Prussian Cavalry started wiping out a few units.  This annoyed the Prussian Cavalry commander enough to charge massed cavalry into the Austrian Infantry in what would prove to be a vain attempt to wipe out the Austrian Guns.  For several turns the Prussian Cav smashed into the Austrian Infantry who fought with extra vigour (i.e. some good cards) to drive off and kill several cavalry units.

The Prussian cav then redeployed to support the main Prussian centre attack.  The Austrian infantry kept shooting the Prussian Cav grinding them down.
Next the Austrians decide the commit their Elite Cuirassiers they were commanded to charge across the river and attack the damaged Prussian Cavalry.  One unit did as ordered but another Cuirassier got confused and lost in the river. This attack faltered and the Cuirassiers were eventually lost pushing the Austrians close to breaking.

Then the Austrian Infantry Volley fire killed another 2 Prussian units pushing the Prussians close to breaking.

The final blow came from the Austrian artillery battery who blasted away killing another Prussian Cav unit this broke the Prussian Army. 

The Accused's Friend, David, had this to say on his behalf:
This is a game that looks like it could be played at a really advanced level of skill by experienced players where you juggle hand management and 'big-picture' goals - which as we discussed, probably means knowing when to let units get clobbered for a higher goal.


  1. Nice looking game with top notch armies...and a great report!

  2. The Third Charge is of a most grievous nature Sirrah
    a Hanging offence I daresay
    :-) great report Sparker

  3. Hi Sparker,

    Zorndorf is one of my favourite battles. I've always found the terrain throws up just the right kind of tactical problems, though I've only ever fought it using Russians Vs Prussians.

    I'm interested in your set up and your use of hills west of the Galgen-Grund. I've always only fought it with only a small mound for the Fuchsberg and rising ground under the Steinbusche. I've largely ignored the higher ground from which the Prussians descend because my set up area only covers the advance after it has begun and Kanitz has started to drift left.

    Having done the virtual walk on google earth with some roadside 'street views', it looks pretty flat. Does your high ground have any influence?

    If you are interested, here are a couple of link addresses to my Zorndorf set up.

    Anyway, thanks for posting this and doing something different with it.

    James Roach
    a.k.a. Olicana

    1. Olicana, that sounds like a sensible omission of high ground for your scenario based on where the main action actually took place. The high ground behind the Prussians largely served as garnish for our battle. If the defenders were to get particularly aggressive and rushed forward to contest it (but why would they?), high ground serves as a penalty when charging up it. Artillery is also slightly penalised if firing from a different elevation in our games.

    2. Thanks James for your interest. Your set up is just amazing and I loved the video clip! True dedication to the SYW!

  4. A recurring point of friction in our household is the question of when and where are Crocs an acceptable mode of footwear. Everywhere, of course! They are just so comfortable that I would wear them to a black-tie event if I could get away with it. Perhaps I should wear something sturdier next time to make my horses charge more convincingly? The rubber seems to do nothing when dug into a horse's flanks!

    1. I must admit I'm an incorrigible Crocs wearer myself! But never with socks!

    2. "A recurring point of friction in our household is the question of when and where are Crocs an acceptable mode of footwear"

      When you say 'point of friction' does that mean that Mrs Matchbox Marshal just tells you when you can wear them, and when you can't, and you just sigh quietly to yourself when she can't hear you? ;-)

  5. Normally knowing Caesar as an officer and a gentleman beyond reproach I would have gladly offered my services as his defending officer. Crocs with socks however; is prejudicial to good order and discipline and he should be arbitrarily swung from a lamp post.

    1. Actually his defending officer took the same line...

  6. Very good report there old bean.
    First off it is good to see the "King of the Battlefield" put in a jolly good showing this time around. About time the artillery was placed in the lime light.
    Your men sir, have no taste when it comes to lace sir, so waving it in front of them you may as well have waved a copy of the Beano comic for all they know.
    NOW about these Crocs 'n God sir what was he thinking!!!!!!! My good lady near fainted when I told her about this infringement on good taste, if it had not been for the bar...err table she was standing next to I swear she would have hit the floor.
    Anyway I digress from the said matter. A damn good flogging is the very lest he should receive, hanging is too good for him sir, to good I say. Good day to you sir.